There is something about the North West of England which tends to spawn some musical powerhouses. Recently, we’ve had no end to fierce death metal bands but with the ascension of bands like Pist who bring swagger, confidence and sleaze with raw riffs, Conan, one of the current lords of doom metal at this moment, it’s time for Boss Keloid to join the ranks. Formed in 2010, the sludge outfit initially started as a five piece and brought the world “Angular Beef Lesson”, an EP which was basically the madness of bands like Primus and Frank Zappa but with some real Sludgy Melvins vibe to them. 2013 saw their first full length, “The Calming Influence Of Teeth” which boasted more heaviness as the band became a four piece and would become the initial foundation of the sound and direction their upcoming/current (depending on when you read this) album, “Herb Your Enthusiasm”. With the UK Metal and rock press lauding them, and being tipped as one to watch for in 2016, You best hold on tight and ride the titanic wave of sludge headed your way.
By his own admission, guitarist Paul Swarbrick says this is a massively different album from their first EP. The undercurrent of insanity still remains though the dynamic and captivatingly enthusiastic performances of vocalist Alex Hurst who conducts the insanity with such power and presence whilst bassist Adam Swarbrick and drummer Stephen Arands bring terrifying low end to beef up Paul’s sound. Having followed the band since their formation, this is something I have anticipated for a long time, and it does not let down.
“Lung Mountain” is the opening track and it features the talents of Conan’s Jon Davis providing some vocal assistance and when someone from Conan is willing to lend a thunderous roar to your release, you know it is a good sign. Massive sounding riffs and thunderous rhythm, full of sinister and evil intent explode to life and the beautiful sounding wall of sludge just crashes on you, crushing you with its intensity and volume. Powerfully raw and constant, the vocals are incredible as they add an extra edge to this already sinister track and as it goes on, you feel yourself smothered in the power of the song and the helplessness takes hold when you realise there is nothing you can do but sit there and be blown away by the heaviness and the noise.
It doesn’t stop there though. Even with the follow up track, “Haarlem Sludge” being a little less intense to begin with, opening up with a middle eastern feel vibe in a similar style to hypnotic doom masters Om both musically and vocally, it just rumbles on as it gets noisier and louder, drawing you even further into the murkiness of the sonic landscape it has created. “Escapegoat” hammers away with pounding drums and bass under the eastern feel guitars once again and when it kicks in with more power, it comes across as something which might resemble what could happen if The Melvins and Sleep spawned a love child. The real quality moment of this track is the rhythm section. The thunderous drums are unrelenting, hammering away at you with pure force and the vocal delivery rings out with clearness and quality in the tone and delivery.
“Cone” unsettles you with the dramatic whispering over ‘clean’ guitar lines, almost like a Weedeater track before it comes into a real heavy, meaty series of riffs, but delivered at a much more relaxed pace. Even when laid back, the North West Sludge Colossus is still powerful and intimidating as fuck. Weirding it up, perhaps as a nod of the head to their beginnings, “Axis Of Green” is rather angular and awkward sounding in parts but flows perfectly, like some works by The Melvins. Intricate riffs and phenomenal sound run through this track and have an odd hook to them. The vocal projection is impressive as Alex holds some of his notes with such stability it just adds to the odd hypnotic vibe of the song and the relentless drums and shifting grooves just keep you on your toes, trapped in this maze of a mindfuck.
“Highatus” is a shot instrumental track which just serves as a breather but the way it goes, it would have been better being part of the previous track’s outro or even as a refrain in it. Still, the slight break allows you to take stock for the next track, “Lung Valley” which you would anticipate to be another monstrosity of noise, but it isn’t. Instead, it is more controlled, relaxing in some odd sense. Teasing at exploding, it draws you in and lowers your defences, preparing you for when it really smashes in as it effortlessly slips into “Elegant Odyssey” which after a slightly sedated start, explodes to life once again with that massive, monstrous, crushing wall of heaviness and intensity. Trapping you in the murkiness once again, it just closes in on you with impressive vocals, solid riffing and some epic, pounding rhythm section work.
“Chabal” brings back Conan’s vocal monster for another shot and once again, the rawness and power of the two vocalists just captivates. Meaty riffs, serious does of fuzz and massive sounds keeps you firmly in its grasp and it refuses to release you from its clutches as it slips from the verse to the melodic hook filled powerful chorus but the outro is the real show stealer here. The pummelling drums and dual vocal assault just smothers you as the riffs hammer you into submission, leaving you wondering just what else can be thrown your way on such a release.
The answer, is the final track – “Hot Priest”. Angular feeling with an odd Jazz sense to it, this track bucks the rest of the album’s trend and goes its own way, possibly making you wonder if you have truly had a mental break from the psychological intensity of this release. Distorted riffing with a furious delivery revisits the Angular Beef Lesson EP once again and the track just continues with its odd intensity. Picking up towards the half-way point, it gets more intense as it slows to a more groove heavy feel and the hypnotic wah-soaked lead really plays with the mind at this stage of the release. The light is at the end of the tunnel, you can see it but before you get there, the sludge has one last crush in it. With the hypnotic wah and intriguing melodic progression to end, you finally escape the darkness but are you the same?
“Herb Your Enthusiasm” is fantastic. Mind bending, hypnotic and heavy, it plays with all your senses, drawing you into the heaviness and murkiness and tormenting you before allowing you to finally free yourself of it. The tone of the music is phenomenal and the vocal delivery is spectacular. What sets Boss Keloid apart from the rest of Sludge is their surreal edge which, combined with the harshness of Sludge and some doomy elements makes for a seriously intense experience. Get this release!